The Yellow Scale
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Enigmatic Yellow

This painting hangs in the MFAH in Houston as part of the John A. and Audrey Jones Beck Collection. One of my favorite sections of the museum is the Impressionist & Post-Impressionist gallery. This painting, The Yellow Scale by František Kupka, a self-portrait, has a permanent home there. He has greeted and invited me in on many occasions over the years.

The gaze of Kupka engulfed in yellow is magnificent. This study of the whole yellow scale is a perfect example of practicing your craft. He explored the depths of color and color theory his entire career. Understanding the nuance and subtlety of any single "color" is a lifetime's work in and of itself.

The color yellow is an enigma. It has always had an air of mystery and unknowableness to me, and one reason I find this painting so alluring. His use of yellow gives this painting a curious, enigmatic quality filled with a lively yet controlled energy and confidence. Yet, for all the brightness that fills this canvas, Kupka's self-portrait has a dark and mischievous quality. The sinister grin, piercing eyes, and relaxed reclining posture add to these qualities and give a glimpse into the nature of the artist himself.